Seize by force - to kill

  • 44 Replies


  • 1293
Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2017, 09:08:28 AM »

Nope. In 1st Ed, you should have rolled to go aggro even if you couldn't miss. Attacking someone and expecting the MC to inflict harm on them for you isn't in the book

"When you attack someone and you can't miss, don't roll to go aggro. Instead, the MC inflicts harm on them as established" is a custom move. It's kind of an obvious custom move, and I think that a couple of different groups invented it in parallel without realizing that they were inventing a custom move. It got promoted as the way to play, even though it wasn't, it was just a custom move that some people liked.

But since it's a perfectly legal custom move, play with it if you want to and don't even worry about it.

In 2nd Ed, it doesn't change the outcome in play, but it's technically significant that when you sucker someone, it's you, not the MC, who inflicts the harm. I consider this to be a correction of the widespread 1st Ed custom move.

« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 10:28:52 AM by lumpley »



  • 417
Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2017, 10:19:06 AM »
Another thing that's worth pointing out is the gap between what you want to happen (I shoot Dremmer in the head) and what actually happens (I reach for my pistol with the intention of shooting Dremmer in the head, but before steel clears leather all hell breaks loose). That's where the mechanics of the game get engaged and where narrative complications make things interesting. This is especially good to keep in mind with go aggro, because it's your opponent who chooses one. And in the 7-9 range, "cave and do what you want" is likely a hell of a lot less attractive than "barricade themselves securely in." Even if they "back away slowly, hands where you can see," you don't get to inflict harm on them for free.

So yeah, you can see Squiggy's hands clear as day - and the giant fucking magnum in them that you didn't know he had is now pointed straight at you. And he's sidling backwards towards the door and saying, "OK, now let's just all be cool and go our separate ways, right?" Now what do you do?

And as others have pointed out, all of this stuff really follows the fiction. Does it make sense for you to be able to plug Dremmer while his dudes stand around like dopes? Does it make sense for Dremmer to stand around like a dope waiting for you to shoot him? If not, then you just getting to inflict harm on Dremmer without having to work or bleed for it just isn't going to happen.

Another thing I've noticed in our games is that seize by force shines most brightly when what it is that you are seizing is conceptually granular, distinct, and of limited scope. Like, "the briefcase" or, "the exit" or "preventing Dremmer's escape" works a hell of a lot better than high-concept stuff like "her life" or "peace." Qualify or stipulate as much as you need to such that it's absolutely clear what single thing you want to achieve, and make sure the fiction fits.

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2017, 12:06:45 PM »



That's an interesting example. While I agree with the rest of your post, to me "back away slowly, hands where you can see" is clearly implying that the target is NOT drawing or aiming a weapon - I always read that as a shorthand way for Vincent to indicate that fighting back was not an immediate option for the NPC. Otherwise, why would we need to talk about their "hands" at all? The phrase "hands where you can see", in my experience, is only used to indicate that the subject is NOT reaching for a weapon or otherwise trying to arm themselves or pull some maneuver.

(Having said that, the rest of the behaviour outlined in your example is perfectly in line with the intentions of the move; it was just the but about suddenly having a gun in hand which jumped out at me as being against the spirit of that particular outcome.)

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2017, 12:18:00 PM »
Nope. In 1st Ed, you should have rolled to go aggro even if you couldn't miss. Attacking someone and expecting the MC to inflict harm on them for you isn't in the book

"When you attack someone and you can't miss, don't roll to go aggro. Instead, the MC inflicts harm on them as established" is a custom move.

This is going to be another one of those where I swear up and down it's in the book, and I'm going to search for it in the book, and it's not going to be in the book, and I'm going to feel like I understand AW less and less all the time, and also Berenstain/Berenstein.

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2017, 12:23:45 PM »
Ah, got it:

Quote from: AW1e
"So, what?" Keeler's player says. "I'm going aggro? I just put the shotgun to his head and pull the trigger. What's the move?"

"Well," I say. "If Bran were capable of reaction, yeah, you'd be going aggro, and what you'd want Bran to do is die in an explosion of brains. But he's helpless. You're just doing it, you aren't even making a move."


Bran's player: "Really?"

"Really really. How much harm does your shotgun do?"

-- 1st ed, p165-166, Harm & Debilities

I mean, if you contradict yourself, very well, you contradict yourself. The 2e revision of this passage (When Life Becomes Untenable, p207) appears mechanically identical, but using the "suckering" terminology instead of "go aggro doesn't apply, so no-move".
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 12:52:46 PM by Borogove »

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2017, 03:47:18 PM »
Thanks, Borogove. I knew that wasn't coming out of nowhere.



  • 1293
Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2017, 04:37:16 PM »
Shows what I know!


Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2017, 05:23:04 PM »
For what it's worth - and it's very weird for me to be saying so when the designer of the game is potentially in disagreement with me! but I do feel strongly about it - I see the use of moves in PbtA games as being more of an art than a science. It is, arguably, the form that "system mastery" takes in a game with this structure: learning, as a group, how and when to apply moves to your play for maximum effect.

(Notably, it's less so in AW than in some of its descendants, like Monsterhearts, but I think the basic principle applies just the same.)

How do we decide when to call for a move?

(1) Part of this is a question of a player's right to create effects and push for consequences within the fiction. You know you can 'go aggro', and thereby get an NPC to do something, so it's your right to call for that, and no one should block you - if anything, we should conspire with you to make it real and to make it happen. We just need to add enough fictional detail to the action to make it interesting and compelling and plausible. You want to do move X? Ok, let's help you make it happen - that's something you should be able to do in the game. That's why they're "your moves" - they are things you are legally entitled to as options within the scope of the game.

(2) Part of this is agreeing on what kinds of fictional events or details cause us to "trigger" moves. If someone pointing a gun at someone and yelling is understood to be "going aggro" in your game, then make that clear and be consistent with it, so we can all get on the same page. Some moves' "triggers" are really clear ("at the end of the session..."), but others require more interpretation (like "seduce/manipulate"), and you'll find yourself setting those standards over time as you play.

If don't follow some standards for when to apply moves and when not to, based on what's happening in our game (or "on screen", to use a metaphor), we start getting into some really wishy-washy territory, and I think that plays against the strengths of the game, eroding our trust in the rules we're playing by.

Having said that, however:

(3) Another part of it is choosing the best tool for your dramatic goals - how does this move, and its potential outputs, work for the fiction we're creating, the choices of the characters within it, and the dramatic necessities of the current scene or situation? There are times when this becomes key and can even override the two previous approaches - times when the outcomes listed for move X just fit perfectly for what you're doing in your scene, even though normally it wouldn't be called for (such is the case with more figurative interpretations of the moves, like "seizing the moment").

In practice, all three work together, in my experience.

A good example of the last type - a move which must be used dramatically - is the "Oftener Right" move (Savvyhead). If you try to apply its use literally, to any instance where any character is asking the Savvyhead for advice on anything at all, you'll soon be overwhelmed with notes on what advice applies where and how. And how long does it "last" for? ("Hey, I think the Savvyhead said two sessions ago that it might be a good idea to bring some food on the trip. Does that mean I can get a +1 to negotiate in the market for buying food?")

However, if you apply the move through the lens of dramatic timing, then it makes sense: we call it into play when a conversation between a character and the Savvyhead is happening and we want to lend it dramatic weight.

In other words, we use the move to mark that "this is a moment where a significant piece of advice is being given, and we want it to matter going forward". If the game were a movie, you can imagine the filmmaker might have marked it with some swelling music in the background, instead: pointing out to the audience that something important was just said or just happened.

I could even imagine a group using it more creatively: a character is pursuing her goals and runs into a real tough situation. We slow down and say, "Hey, you know the Savvyhead always used to say that no one should attempt this. Let's play out a flashback where you two were talking about it, about a month ago... now, let's get back to that scene. If you want to change your mind and turn around and run, I'll give you that +1 for realizing the Savvyhead was right after all."

That might be a bit of a stretch (I can see it being legit at some tables and not others), but sometimes this kind of thing is just the right thing to do. I can imagine a more typical example where, over many sessions of play, we learn that a certain characters always arches their eyebrow before launching into wild violence. In that game, the character arching their eyebrow meaningfully at another character who knows how they operate could qualify for "going aggro", even though normally that would be a pretty sloppy (and probably inadvisable) use of the move.

I could see a group using that for Oftener Right, too; perhaps two characters know each other well enough that they can communicate non-verbally, and that creates opportunities for a move to trigger. A character is about to leave on a journey (instead of dealing with a problem back home), and they go to their usual hiding spot, where the Savvyhead normally leaves them letters. However, this time, there's no letter there.

We all look at each other, instantly understanding what it means: the Savvyhead disapproves. What doesn't need to be said is that she wants the character to stay home and deal with the problem. It's a moment of tough love.

The player points at her character sheet and says, "I'm Oftener Right." We all understand implicitly that, should the character take this as a sign and stay back, to deal with the problem at hand, the move will apply.

That's a part of what's happening in the "shotgun to the head" example. By the book, perhaps (depending on how you interpret the 2nd Ed. rules, I suppose), we should definitely by using "go aggro" here. However, dramatically and mechanically, it makes no sense to roll dice and look for an NPC reaction when we can all see that pulling the trigger is a meaningful choice in the player's hands. Suddenly throwing in some randomness here isn't appropriate. The outcomes of the move don't help us here, either. All we care about is: does she pull the trigger or not? And then we can narrate the outcome accordingly - it's already clear to everyone what's at stake.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 05:28:15 PM by Paul T. »

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2017, 06:27:04 PM »
Thank you all and thank you Vincent. This is very clear.

It's a discipline and a paradigm shift to learn to always get back to the "how do you plan to do this" instead of looking for  the move to trigger.

Now I have this strange feeling, you know, when you realize something totally new but simple but still, you're not sure you're right. Question : is "exchanging harm" a battle move?

Like,  "I just shoot at Dremmer to kill him", and the move triggered is "exchange harm"?



  • 415
Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2017, 07:04:48 PM »
It's called single combat.

I should clarify, if the player is pushing to just fight, single combat is the just fight move. The MC, however can also trade harm as a move.

Trade harm for harm (as established)

The point is here really not that the Player needs to make a move, but that the player needs to act in the fiction and the MC responds accordingly. A move is really putting the results at stake, it's kind of a way to take your hands off as an MC so you can both looking forward to the outcome. If you try to run a cinematic game without dice at all, you'll see the difference. It's fun, but the details descriptions and actions are essential (they're the only thing to go off of). AW isn't actually all that different, except you can disclaim something to the dice and the players moves. (And you should do this, but not until AFTER you have the details.)
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 07:16:37 PM by Ebok »

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #25 on: November 21, 2017, 11:29:31 PM »

There are two really good rules of thumb for a new AW MC to remember, in my opinion:

1. When you're *not sure* what's going on, which move applies, or what its outcomes mean, keep asking questions until you get more details. Flesh out the fictional situation, until one of the moves (or see below) is the right fit.

2. If something's happening and no move seems to fit, the MC makes a move.

The second point applies particularly if you're coming to AW from other games. You know how you have those moments where you feel like you should say, "Ok, roll some dice!", in AW, is just a moment where you make a move.

In AW, the "filler" die rolls just become MC moves, plain and simple.

Armed with those two guidelines, AW becomes pretty seamless and easy.

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #26 on: November 22, 2017, 07:29:02 AM »
I really appreciate the time the community spend to discuss these matters. It's fascinating.

The examples describes by Vincent, ebok et Paul T. about "extend the details of the fictional position" are really enlighting.

I think I really get the "act in the fiction to trigger a move" and the fund. I'm struggling with "which move does it trigger" sometimes. I'm asking because the matter I'm discussing in this thread was the most puzzling during our games.

Let me clarify (Sorry if I insist, just wanna be sure I made myself clear and I understand your point clearly, as I'm not english native) :

The battle move section enumerates and describes the moves. The first move described is "exchange harm" (p.166). As the description of this battle move says explicitly "Many of the battle moves call for you to exchange harm. To exchange harm..." I always figured that this "exchange harm" was only triggered when another battle move explictly mentioned it. Now, I'm wondering, was "exchange harm" designed to be brought by the player as a battle move when he "does battle" (as exchange harm is listed in the battle move section like seizing by force or single combat), or only to trigger when mentioned in another move?

(I realize that considering it as a battle move solves totally my issue.)

I understand your answer Ebok, but with the language I'm just not sure I made my own point clearly, so maybe I'll appear as stubborn, sorry for that :)
« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 09:09:25 AM by arakn_e »



  • 417
Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #27 on: November 22, 2017, 05:25:29 PM »
@arakn_e: the part about "exchanging harm" in the section on the battle moves is not a move in and of itself (at least not one a player can invoke). You will note that it has no trigger, for instance. It's simply an indicator of how the mechanics for a number of battle moves work, the situation upon which they are predicated. The move single combat is a good example - regardless of the outcome of the roll or options chosen by the player, the move includes the exchange of harm. You can't engage in single combat and NOT exchange harm. If you're lucky your armor may soak all the harm you receive, but you still exchanged it.

That said, trade harm for harm (as established) is an MC move. That means that at any point in the game (if it's fictionally appropriate), it's totally cool for the MC to say something like, "Yeah, you and Dremmer's goons are all shooting at each other in a blaze of gunfire. You take X harm in the exchange and they take Y harm." Nobody's rolling anything (as the players haven't triggered any moves), it's just that the fictional situation includes bullets flying everywhere, and it stands to reason that people are going to get shot and take harm. I find that this sort of situation occurs mostly when the characters are "in battle," though this is the part of AW2E that is the least clearly-defined in my opinion.

Does that answer your question?

@Paul T: the reason having a gun suddenly appear in the person's hands is a reasonable outcome to a 7-9 in go aggro is simple - you only get to inflict the "free harm" on someone if they elect to "force your hand and suck it up." The option to "back off calmly, hands where you can see" is fine as-is if the situation warrants it, but I find that often it doesn't make narrative sense in the fiction.

For example, I stick my gun in your face and say, "Give me the narcostabs, motherfucker. I will not repeat myself." If you simply back up, there's nothing in the fiction that keeps me from saying, "Fuck this, I pull the trigger," which is an identical outcome you forcing my hand - which you didn't choose to do. Further, nothing prevents me from saying, "If you take another step backwards, then so-help-me-Goddess I will blow your brains out," which is essentially me just going aggro again.

But as we know, AW isn't really an "I do it again" kind of game, so something in the fiction needs to prevent me from simply re-asserting my threat. And at the same time, "back off calmly, hands where I can see" has to be a valid option that keeps you from simply being able to plug me (because I am explicitly not forcing your hand and sucking it up). Ergo, by altering the fictional situation to include an escalation (Squiggy now has a gun of his own) I have made it clear that both a) he's not going to do what you want, and b) if you want to resort to violence, you're risking taking harm yourself. The fictional situation itself prevents you from triggering go aggro again, which is as it should be.

You see a similar dynamic with "barricade themselves securely in." I often narrate this as someone either making a run for it before you can bring your weapon to bear or moving quickly enough that you try to hit/shoot them and miss - because you don't get to automatically inflict harm on someone on a 7-9 for this move, even if they're not doing what you want. But at the same time, the fictional situation needs to change sufficiently that you can't just re-trigger the same move.

If you don't enforce a change in the fictional situation, the entire go aggro move loses something, either being too powerful or too wishy-washy, depending on how the MC interprets it.

Make sense?

Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #28 on: November 22, 2017, 07:14:13 PM »

Good answer.

And I agree with your point of view: it makes sense to me. I think that "hands where you can see" clearly implies that they should NOT be able to draw a gun or pull some other "trick", but, at the same time, your interpretation of a change in the situation is also a good play tip.

I'm not sure how I'd play that, myself. The key in that situation is that the character has ceded to the show of dominance you've put on. I don't think rolling "go aggro" a second time would be completely out of the question (although I agree that generally we try to avoid that kind of thing in AW).

It's also possible that you simply shouldn't choose that option (unless you *like* the idea of leaving the choice to shoot in the player's hands) in this situation. It might be more suitable when the harm being threatened is a fist in the face or something similar, where backing off actually *does* make a difference.



  • 417
Re: Seize by force - to kill
« Reply #29 on: November 23, 2017, 11:02:55 AM »
Right, and that's why I said it's fine as-is if the situation warrants it. But there are lots of times (in fact most times, I find) where it doesn't, and a different interpretation is required. And it's important to make the distinction that the opponent has not "ceded to your show of dominance," as that would be to cave and do what you want. They are explicitly not doing that, ergo some other interpretation must be used to make the situation fit the fiction.

Also, it's worth mentioning that this is also very much subject to the fictional positioning on the part of the player/PC; if the player has set things up that it is impossible for the NPC to either change the situation to offer resistance or find some means of safe retreat, then that response option is effectively taken off the table. At that point, the 7-9 might still very well result in "they cave and do what you want."